Witnesses who Matter: If You are in the Latest Group of Witnesses, What’s YOUR Story?

You see it in movies and on TV. There’s a nervous person in the witness-box, swearing to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth. They are usually just people who happened to see or experience something pertaining to a trial in a court of law. As a result, they are called upon to testify before a judge, perhaps a jury, and the plaintiffs or defendants. Witnesses tell the truth as it happened to them, and every witness has a story.

witnesses

Are We?

Nike had a pretty effective ad campaign for LeBron, saying that we are all witnesses of his exploits. LeBron James does indeed have an impressive basketball resume, but here’s a more important consideration. When it comes to life, what’s YOUR Story? People in Jerusalem were challenged to be witnesses about what they ACTUALLY saw.
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you. And you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8 NIV)

The last couple of weeks, we have been observing the folks who witnessed Jesus on earth, and who recorded testimony about him. When talking about the various witnesses to who Jesus was, it’s important not to forget one last group. He commissioned everyone who would encounter him, eyewitness or not, to be witnesses on his behalf.

Witnesses to What?

It’s not surprising that Jesus commissioned his disciples to be witnesses. After all, they were looking at him, and eyewitness testimony is a powerful thing. It is used in courtrooms and product testimonials. Even Nike and its ubiquitous swoosh appropriated the idea and challenged people to be witnesses. I like LeBron, but I’d have to say that life is not worth much if we are only witnesses to basketball…

This verse is often used to illustrate strategy, and it certainly makes sense to “bloom where you are planted”. From there, you extend your outreach to successive concentric circles, beginning with your city and extending to your region and your state. It’s a strategy that worked amazingly well in a time before there were marketing experts, demographic studies and focus groups.

To me, one of the great proofs of Christianity is that so many first century believers were changed so radically by the good news. Everyday people were touched by the message and teachings of Jesus Christ, and lived differently as a result. When they were challenged by opposition, they could have recanted or back down to protect themselves, but they didn’t. Many of them died defending their beliefs, and it is truly astounding to think about the world-changing power that was unleashed through those first century witnesses who confirmed what they had seen and heard.

More Than First Century Myth

That chain of confirmation includes everyone who heard the good news and found it worthy of a response. Witnesses came from those ordinary citizens in Jerusalem who heard Peter or Stephen preach. They were people like Lydia the seller of purple and Cornelius the centurion. The chain linked to philosophers on Mars Hill. It was held by martyrs who chose public and painful deaths rather than renouncing their testimonies…

The world’s transformation went on and extended to the next generation of witnesses. It went through Catholic priests, to Reformers, to Lutherans and Methodists and Moravians. Testimonies popped up through successive generations of believers who continued to be witnesses one after another. They took the Gospel out to foreign cultures and to other lands, spread out across history against all odds, using the word of mouth that reached all shores like ripples in a pond.. And it has come down to here: to you and me. We are all among the secondary generation witnesses. We are now empowered to testify about our experience in our OWN neighborhoods and hometowns, across social and cultural barriers, and everywhere we go.

More Than Other Witnesses

I am a witness. At fourteen, I had lived in eight or nine different family configurations. My mom, who was a vivacious and beautiful woman, struggled with alcohol and relationships, so things changed a lot. I was an insecure kid. I had grown to feel that love was not very dependable. It seemed like the more I reached out for it, the harder it was to find.

But I encountered the life, teachings, and resurrection of Jesus in a way that changed my life. It enabled me to feel loved, to love God, and to love others. To be honest, I wasn’t totally sure it was true. But something made me believe that Jesus mattered, and that he mattered to me. Since then, I have seen God heal; I have seen Him change lives. I have been a witness to His deliverance of a small party of refugees from a war zone. In short, I have experienced His boundless love and forgiveness in the flesh. In turn, that has encouraged me to love and to forgive. My life is a testament, not to my good nature and sunny disposition, but to God’s love.

It occurs to me: we are not only witnesses of it but participants in it! What’s your story? I’d love to hear it. Post it here in a few sentences, go:
________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
(Or post a comment, and PLEASE put your story here!!)

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread
For the Kindle Edition, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Bo-Jackson-ebook/dp/B01K5Z0NLA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-2&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

Eyewitness Accounts Exist; But is there Enough Evidence to Convict YOU?

The Christmas season always has so much meaning to me that I hate to see it end. But the tree and the Christmas lights are down. As we start digging into 2021 and , let’s pause to reflect one last time about the Christmas story. I love it because it’s a story filled with humility and surprise, full of unexpected details that validate the arrival of a long-awaited king. And it’s also amazing because every year it presents evidence through eyewitness accounts. It’s a yearly reminder that Jesus was a REAL person who was born and walked among us.

Really

His arrival was witnessed by shepherds and magi, by townspeople and angels. At the time, men recalled Scriptures from long ago and quoted them while celebrating the birth of Jesus; they still do today. Why do so many people commemorate his life every year? We’re a long way from first century Judea, and there is so much legend and commercialism today around the Christmas baby Jesus it might be easy to forget who he really was and what he really did.

Lest the story seem ancient and quaint, I thought it would be good to play “Eyewitness News” through the gospels and get some first-hand accounts from people who were there, who saw Jesus, talked with him, and witnessed what he did. After all, eyewitness accounts can get someone convicted in a court of law; maybe they are worth listening to about this man Jesus.

eyewitness

Actual Testimony

Do those accounts provide any real evidence about him? The story of the baby Jesus reminds us how he came to earth; the things he did as a man reveal WHY he came to earth. One of the early reporters was his cousin, John the Baptist, who said this: “I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire…” (Matthew 3:11 KJV) and this: “Again the next day after John stood, and two of his disciples; And looking upon Jesus as he walked, he said, Behold the Lamb of God!” (John 1:35-36 KJV)

Before Jesus ever drove money-changers from the temple or performed a miracle, and before his wisdom changed the way everyone looked at religion, John identified him as a game-changer. Long before the cross, and long before Jesus said, “This is my body”, John pointed to Jesus as the Lamb of God, the sacrifice who would take away the sins of the world.

This past Christmas season, we’ve celebrated the birth of the baby Jesus, the newborn king. Let’s not forget who he grew up to be. Christmas may begin in a manger, but it ends on a cross. Reliable witnesses provided proof of Jesus’ birth; they also remind us throughout the Gospels that we should celebrate his life as well! If a reliable eyewitness account can get someone convicted of murder, perhaps we should allow a few good eyewitness accounts to get us convicted about how to live…

The Shepherd’s Account

I saw him there, your Honor, in the manger where he lay;
I saw him in the village, with the other kids at play.
He taught there in the temple court when he was just a lad;
The elders were astonished at the questions that he had!
I saw him heal the sick and lame, and heard him preach and teach,
While hundreds fed on fish and bread extended from his reach.

You asked me here and swore me in to give my testimony.
I raised my hand and told this court that not a word is phony!
The angels told us we would find a new-born baby boy,
Whose birth would change the world, and bring us tidings of great joy!
I swear, Your Honor, on my oath that every word is true;
That many people heard his words and saw what he could do–
I’m sure you would believe in Him if you had seen him too!

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

Knowing God’s Testimony Is a Great Place to Start Your OWN

The Power of Testimony

It used to be that when people gave a testimony in court, they would swear on the Bible because it was a symbol of truth. And the power of that testimony could help enforce justice. It seems like more and more people doubt the Bible these days, but what if– I mean, really, what if it IS true? What if it contains God’s actual testimony, “the whole truth and nothing but the truth”? Would you read it? This Psalmist did: “I am Your servant; Give me understanding, That I may know Your testimonies.” (Psalms 119:125 NKJV) The testimony of God had a profound influence on David. Let’s make three quick observations about this verse:

Not the Most Coveted Position

1. “I am your servant.” The psalmist puts himself in the proper place and God in His proper place. It is very important to understand who God is, and who you are—but it is actually surprisingly hard to do. Have you noticed how many people have a problem with authority? Have you ever really considered whether YOU are submitting to God’s authority in your life?

It’s funny, but I have noticed that a LOT of advertising today tries to appeal to rule breakers… “Color outside the lines”. “No rules, just right.” So many people today reject authority that focus groups suggest it as a way to motivate someone subliminally to buy a car, or eat steak! Our culture celebrates money, youth, and ego; it doesn’t celebrate being a servant. Humility before God is a great place to start any spiritual quest.

Who Needs Authority?

We reject authority because people with power abuse it, or may not have our best interests at heart. We are actually afraid to be humble because we don’t trust the authority over us. But what if the one in charge had ONLY your best interests in mind, had nothing but love for you, and was dedicated to making you the best version of yourself that you could be? We serve coaches in order to have a better athletic performance and a better team. It may just be that serving God also brings rewards.

Many people pray to God as if to a spiritual genie, asking Him to do what they want. David understood that God doesn’t serve us– We serve God, and in serving Him we become the best versions of ourselves.

Understanding the Way to Understanding

2. “Give me understanding…” While there is a level of knowledge that is attainable by human effort, true wisdom is a gift, shared by the spirit of God. It comes from knowing God’s testimony about the world and accepting His understanding. Knowledge is useful; understanding is demonstrated when knowledge is applied. We should devote part of every day to gathering understanding about God’s ways and character, and then we should look for opportunities to use it. Do you pursue? Do you apply?

testimony

Is it Knowing or KNOWING?

3. “That I may know your testimonies.” There are really two ways to look at this phrase. One is merely the application rote memorization. Know God’s testimony by heart. Do you know what it says? Can you repeat the stories about what God has done? Most of the stories about God are connected to the people of God. And get this: THEY WERE JUST PEOPLE. God is still working today, and He is still doing things with and for His children, people like you and me.

Inside/Outside

Which brings us to the second way to know God’s testimonies, which is to know them experientially. Have you experienced a relationship with God? Do you have a testimony of your own? Can you look back through your life and see God’s hand at work to broaden your understanding through His word, or circumstances, or relationships? Knowing His testimonies gives you a practical knowledge of what God has done and hope for how He will act in the future. If you lived each day with understanding about what God has done outside of you, then you can take confidence in what He will do INSIDE of you. Think of God’s testimonies today, and you may just find that He is creating some through you for tomorrow.

Testimony

It’s a church word, it’s a legal word, it’s a word you’ve heard
From the days of your youth about the truth;
It can be a report that you hear in court,
Or someone’s claim in God’s Holy name!
It’s got to be true, it can’t be phony,
I’m talking about that testimony!
God’s word will help you every day
With inspiring thoughts, and the words to say;
To everyone who is gathered there,
Put your hand on the Bible, and stand and swear:
God’s truth means so much more TO you
When it is happening THROUGH you!

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread